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Eastern students teach of The Amistad’s journey to freedom

Published on September 21, 2021

Eastern students teach of The Amistad’s journey to freedom

Partnership with Discovering Amistad serves Hartford-area middle, high schoolers

A replica ship of "The Amistad" is docked at the Hartford riverfront for the duration of the "Amistad Journey to Freedom" program. 

Eight students from Eastern Connecticut State University are working with Discovering Amistad this September and October, teaching Hartford-area middle and high school students about the famed revolt of The Amistad. For the “Amistad Journey to Freedom” program, Eastern students will tell of the ship’s historic rebellion and help to connect it to contemporary social and racial issues.

The program will serve more than 1,000 students from the Hartford, Bloomfield, East Hartford, Windsor and Farmington school districts. Prior to their presentations, which will occur in person in the districts’ classrooms, Eastern students will be trained by Discovering Amistad staff. 

“We are very excited about working with Eastern Connecticut State University students, faculty and staff to prepare the students to deliver our Amistad Journey to Freedom education program,” said Steve Armstrong and Kathleen Peters-Durrigan, co-chairs of the Discovering Amistad Education Committee.

“Eastern was selected as our partner for The Amistad Journey to Freedom because of its reputation for community engagement and the long desire by Discovering Amistad to develop an internship program with Eastern. We are hoping that this wonderful partnership will be just the beginning of a vibrant and productive collaboration.”

The Eastern students were selected based on faculty recommendations and academic majors related to education, history and sociology. They will deliver presentations and facilitate discussions and be compensated with a stipend and academic credit.

Eastern students and program educators Kemrodge Bell, Lindsay Weaver, Fritny Fontilus and Paul Gronendyke aboard The Amistad in Hartford.

Chris Menapace of Discovering Amistad leads Eastern students through an on-campus training prior to the "Amistad Journey to Freedom" program.

Discovering Amistad trainer Chris Menapace presents to Eastern students on the replica ship.

Students attend an on-campus training for the "Amistad Journey to Freedom" program.

“This diverse group of interns exemplifies the academic curiosity and strong work ethic we’ve come to expect from our students,” said Chris Drewry, associate dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies. “Not only will they have the chance to get younger students excited about history and social justice, they will model what it’s like to be gifted, passionate students and citizens.”

The events of the Amistad occurred in 1839, when 53 Mende captives from Sierra Leone took control of the ship, the Amistad, before being captured and towed into New London, CT. The Mende faced slavery or execution, however residents throughout Connecticut took up their cause, and ultimately the captives were ordered freed.

The Amistad Journey to Freedom program kicked off Sept. 9 as a replica ship of the Amistad sailed up the Connecticut River and docked on the Hartford riverfront—where it will remain throughout the duration of the month-long program. The Amistad Journey to Freedom will culminate on Oct. 14 with a symposium that brings together the middle and high school students to discuss what they’ve learned.

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Written by Michael Rouleau